What do kids do when they can’t get their way? They kick and scream. What an appropriate title for Will Ferrell’s latest—considering each and every audience member, be it kid or adult, will most likely throw a tantrum over Kicking and Screaming’s ordinariness and shortcomings. Unfortunately, not even Ferrell’s physical antics can save this cookie-cutter kiddy comedy from being unexceptional and just plain unfunny.
Ever since Phil Weston (Will Ferrell) could hold a ball in his hand, he has undercut his competitive father’s expectations. Phil has never beaten his father Buck (Robert Duvall) in anything, and every time Phil seems to do something grand, his arrogant father one-ups him. When Phil announces his engagement, so does his father—to a younger and prettier woman; when Phil has a child, so does his dad—and it is no surprise when Buck’s son, Bucky (Josh Hutcherson), is one ounce heavier than Phil’s son, Sam (Dylan McLaughlin). With Buck, everything is a competition.
However, when Phil gets the opportunity to coach Sam’s soccer team and go up against his father’s team, he jumps at the chance. Once Phil’s team starts to win, Phil becomes overly obsessed with winning and – just like his champion father – does anything and everything to avoid losing.
Phil becomes a monster, and his transformation from a klutzy dork into a Bobby Knight wannabe really isn’t as funny as one would think. In fact, it is a little tiresome. Watching Ferrell push kids to the ground, encourage his players to “break someone’s clavicle” and force parents to run laps only provides enough chuckles to count on one hand and further downgrades the already deprived script. Ferrell has finally come down off of his four-picture high.
While Kicking and Screaming serves as a train-wreck for Will Ferrell, it serves as a vehicle for Mike Ditka. Ditka, who plays himself, is Phil’s assistant coach and Buck’s raucous neighbor. Even though the man who led the Chicago Bears to the ’85 Super Bowl may be a dynamic motivator, the same cannot be said for his acting ability. To put it simply: Ditka cannot act. In fact, with him included, the film seems more like an SNL sketch with Mike Ditka as the host.
At most, Kicking and Screaming is fair-weather. Just like Farrell’s character, this film has the coordination of a baby giraffe and the agility of an elephant. Instead of gag after gag, it is yawn after yawn. Similar to Little Giants, Kicking and Screaming is truly an underdog family comedy that never gives families a reason to get excited. Before this child’s play even began production, someone should have blown the whistle and gave K&S a red card. (** out of ****)